Steampunk Convention

PARKERSBURG – The first Vandalia-Con Steampunk Convention kicked off Friday with a variety of vendors, activities and visitors at the Blennerhassett Hotel in downtown Parkersburg.

Steampunk refers to science fiction and fantasy that is set in a Victorian or Industrial-Era setting. Organizer Shelly Dusic said the theme is perfect for Parkersburg, since most of the city was built in the late 1800s and early 1900s when this time period occurs.

Dusic said one of the main goals of the weekend convention is to raise awareness about cancer, with proceeds from the event helping the West Virginia Breast and Cervical Cancer Screening Program. Dusic is a health information specialist with the program.

Dusic thought the convention was off to a positive start early Friday evening, with a lot of interest being shown from the local community, especially due to the underlying goal of raising awareness about breast and cervical cancer.

“All of our vendors really love the space,” she said, referring to the convention’s location in the historic downtown hotel. “Everyone’s incredibly happy with the Blennerhassett Hotel.”

Dusic said there was already interest being expressed in returning next year and she hopes to make the convention bigger and better every year.

Today’s activities at the convention will include panels, classes, workshops, musical performances, film showings and other activities at the Blennerhassett Hotel. More information about the event and its goals is available at the website www.vandaliacon.org.

One of the events featured this weekend is the screening of a documentary about a movie filmed in 2013 at locations around the Mid-Ohio Valley, including Parkersburg and Marietta.

Eric Vasbinder, co-owner of Ragnbones Productions of Youngstown, said “White Zombie” was from a screenplay by local author Susan Sheppard based on the 1932 Bela Lugosi film of the same name, and featured more than 100 extras from the local area. It was shot primarily at The Anchorage, a historic Marietta home.

Vasbinder said the film, which will premiere July 12 at the Twin City Opera House in McConnelsville, was a good fit for this weekend’s event. The movie is set in a steampunk world – with the gadgets and weapons associated- and uses a voodoo-style zombie theme, as opposed to the apocalyptic zombies predominantly seen today in television and film.

The screenings and discussions Friday and today will feature scenes from the movie, Vasbinder said.

“A lot of the people who were part of the making of the movie, this is the first time they are actually going to see parts of the film,” he said, adding the producers are looking for opportunities to bring the finished film to the local area.

Other attractions in the downtown Parkersburg area are also participating in the event. A special Haunted Parkersburg tour was held Friday evening, while today’s outside activities will include tours of the Julia-Ann Square Historic District and homes located there, tours of the Smoot Theatre and Parkersburg Art Center and visits to the Blennerhassett Museum of Regional History and Blennerhassett Island Historical State Park.

Dusic said some of the outside events may require the purchase of separate tickets or may be covered by the convention ticket, depending on what type of admission package was purchased.

Tickets will be available at the door or online through the convention website. Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for children for a day pass, while a weekend pass is $50 and will cover all convention activities along with some of the associated tours and activities.

In keeping with the underlying theme of breast cancer awareness, the weekend convention will end with the Vandalia-Con Pink Block Party from 12:30-4 p.m. Sunday at Point Park Marketplace. The free block party will feature women’s health screenings- including the Bonnie’s Bus Mobile Mammography Unit from 10 a.m.-4 pm.- a parade from the hotel to Point Park, food vendors, a concert by The Battle Weary Band and Unwoman and a health fair.

Today’s schedule at Vandalia-Con:

* 8 a.m.-7 p.m.: Vendors (Ballroom)

* 8 a.m.-10 p.m.: Registration (Ballroom); Steampunk Art Silent Auction (Ballroom)

* 9-10 a.m.: History and Technology of Airships (Alexander Parker Boardroom)

* 9:30-10:30 a.m.: Youth Anime Panel (Stratford Boardroom); Cindy Lynn Speer Writer’s Workshop on World Building (Monroe Boardroom)

* 10 a.m.: Ghost Busters Kid’s Ghost Hunt

* 10:30-11:30 a.m.: Calligraphy (Stratford Boardroom)

* 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m.: Mark Twain (Monroe Boardroom)

* 11 a.m.-2 p.m.: White Zombie documentary showing (Alexander Parker Boardroom)

* Noon-1 p.m.: Racing Dirigibles Workshop with Professor Bubblemaker (Stratford Boardroom)

* 1-2 p.m.: Johnny Appleseed (Monroe Boardroom)

* 1:30-2:30 p.m.: Makers Workshop with Thomas Willeford (Stratford Boardroom)

* 2:30-3:30 p.m.: Featherstone and the History of Steampunk (Alexander Parker Boardroom); Professor Bubblemaker’s Kid Science (Monroe Boardroom)

* 3-4 p.m.: Susan Sheppard Meet and Greet (Stratford Boardroom)

* 4 p.m.: Ghost Busters Kid’s Ghost Hunt (Ballroom)

* 4-5 p.m.: Nerd Music (Monroe Boardroom)

* 4-7 p.m.: White Zombie documentary showing with cast and crew (Alexander Parker Boardroom)

* 4:15-5:15 p.m.: Self Defense with cane and umbrella (Stratford Boardroom)

* 5:30-6:30 p.m.: Rise and Rebirth of Vaudeville (Stratford Boardroom); Meet the Crew of the Airship Dead Rabbit (Monroe Boardroom)

* 7-8 p.m.: Why Piracy? Or You Can’t Take the Sky From Me (Alexander Parker Boardroom); Karnevil Sideshow (Stratford Boardroom); Mystery Airships of 1897 (Monroe Boardroom)

* 8 p.m.-midnight: Rivergem Grande Ball featuring musical guests Painless Parker, The Dead Frets and Unwoman (Ballroom)

* Late Night after 11 p.m.: Storytime with Captain Lovelock, and Ask a Karney (Monroe Boardroom)